Toronto street is lined with huge flamingos and unicorns

In the age of the selfie, inflatables are advertisers’ best friends.

During the summer months especially, when marketing strategists go out and test the public’s appetite for publicity stunts, helium balloons and flashy props often serve as the backdrop for almost any pop-up exercise. up and branding across the city.

This weekend, Canadian Tire lined the lawns of houses in the Danforth district with huge flamingos and unicorns, garden gnomes and dairy cows, as part of an advertising campaign to celebrate the company’s centenary.

The festivities attracted families looking for entertainment and Instagram die-hards looking for a photo op.

It’s a bold marketing approach – turning a random residential street in Toronto into a mile-long advertisement for a $10 billion company – but one that reflects an experimental moment in the world of advertising.

« Over the past two years, most of the interactions companies have had with people have been virtual, so now they want to get out there and advertise in the community, » said Rotman marketing professor David Soberman. School of the University of Toronto. of the management.

North American businesses spent more than $1.8 billion on outdoor advertising (known in the marketing world as outdoor advertising or “OOH”) in the first months of 2022, a massive spike from first months of 2021, according to data from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America.

But after years of declining sales and foot traffic, some retailers are also trying to sell their community ties to consumers while keeping costs low.

Nearly 50 homeowners on Bastedo Avenue, a quiet street with semi-detached properties and tall oak trees, agreed to place floats on their lawns for Canadian Tire’s anniversary. Because the marketing takes place on private property and does not impede traffic, the company did not need a road permit to proceed with the campaign, a company spokesperson said.

« Campaigns like these are a pretty innovative way to advertise and get attention for your brand without having to spend a lot of money, » Soberman said.

The company didn’t say why it chose the Danforth, but Canadian Tire has long attracted middle-class homeowners who need gardening tools and sports equipment for children. For a company fairly entrenched in the national psyche, community connection demonstrations are key to sustaining the brand, especially as it faces increasingly fierce competition from like-minded retailers including Walmart and Amazon. . The advantage of the company in Canada, according to experts, is its reputation and notoriety.

The retailer’s campaign also raises an interesting question for residents: Can your street sporadically turn into a marketing campaign?

In short, the answer is yes, but only if the neighbors agree.

While businesses need permits to put up signs on sidewalks or hold events in public spaces, advertising on residential properties is allowed as long as the landlord has given consent, a city spokesperson said. of Toronto.

Disgruntled community members should probably call 311 to file complaints with the city.

The city has bylaws that regulate the size and scope of commercial advertising. But, as is often the case, the city has no resources for enforcement, so any action it takes is driven by grievances registered by the community.

“There are regulations on the size of advertising, but the advantage of displays like these is that they are very temporary and will probably take a few hours to set up and take down. And the community is obviously okay with that, so the risk is not high,” Soberman said.


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